Davante Adams' Family Night mirrors career: Fast start then struggles

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Davante Adams would like nothing more than to begin this season the way he started the Green Bay Packers' Family Night practice on Sunday.

A crowd of 66,397 at Lambeau Field -- yes, for a practice -- watched Adams burst off the line of scrimmage, run a precise corner route and snag a 26-yard catch against linebacker Jake Ryan on a perfectly thrown ball from Aaron Rodgers. Adams followed that with a 35-yard catch down the right sideline against cornerback LaDarius Gunter, the second-year pro who's been having a strong camp.

It looked he vanquished the demons of last season, when injuries and inconsistency marred what was supposed to be his breakout year.

Even Jordy Nelson said he's noticed a difference in Adams this summer.

"I think you can see his confidence back," Nelson said after Sunday night's practice. "The speed is back, and he's just playing fast. That makes a difference."

Or does it?

The two-minute drill later in practice suggests otherwise. Adams flat dropped a pass on the sideline that would have been a first down when he misjudged the height of the ball and then four plays later couldn't haul in what would have been an outstretched, 24-yard touchdown.

Just like that, it was shades of last season.

"The first one I definitely should've come up with," Adams said after practice. "I think I just misjudged it in the lights. It kept soaring up. The other one was a stretch. I laid out for it but couldn't come up with up."

Nevertheless, it's been a productive camp for the much-maligned third-year player.

There was a deep ball in practice last week that he hauled in -- even if cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt's claim that Adams pushed off were true -- that was among the most impressive catches of camp.

"That is an earn-his-trust type of play," Adams said, referring to Rodgers. "That's what I'm looking for in practice. Obviously I want to try to make the catch regardless. Those balls down the field, we've got to capitalize down the field. So if in practice I have to get a little bit of a guy's shoulder -- I might have pushed a little bit -- but those I've got to make sure I'm coming up. And to catch a ball like that, I'm coming back to the huddle and he's like 'Tae, that's exactly what I need'. At the end of the day, it's get the ball. If I've got to give somebody a little love tap in the process, then that's what it is."

However, there was another practice play in which he lost a ball that cornerback Quinten Rollins stripped away.

"You look for players, particularly route-running in his case and putting himself in position to be thrown to, [and] I think he's doing a very good job of that that," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

"I think Davante's off to a good start," he added.

Although he caught 50 passes in 13 regular-season games last year, he never put together the kind of game-changing performances he did as a rookie when he had 100-yard games in wins over the Patriots and Cowboys, the latter in a playoff game. He followed his rookie year with a strong offseason after which coach McCarthy called him the MVP of the 2015 offseason.

Then Adams badly rolled his left ankle in Week 2 last year against the Seahawks. He tried to play the next week against the Chiefs but lasted just three plays and then missed the next three games. He finally showed signs of production again late in the season with four catches for 54 yards in the regular-season finale against the Vikings. He started the wild-card game against the Redskins with four catches for 48 yards before he injured his knee in the third quarter. That injury kept him out of the divisional playoff loss at Arizona.

"It killed me," Adams said of the way his season ended.

He's healthy now and doing everything he can to stay that way. Once Nelson and Ty Montgomery come off the physically unable to perform list, the true battle for the No. 3 receiver spot will begin. But Adams already is facing a challenge from Jared Abbrederis, who stood out in practice last week; Jeff Janis, who is gaining Rodgers' trust; and rookie Trevor Davis, who made an early impression.

"I think he's had a good start," receivers coach Luke Getsy said last week. "He's come back with a fire behind him. He's attacking the meeting room, he's attacking the practice field, the individual periods, everything. There's a fire lit inside of him, and he's ready to rock and roll. He's got to continue to grow every single day though."